Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk caused a considerable stir this morning with an announcement about the company’s Model 3 sedan, which will apparently carry a price tag of about $35,000. For a variety of industries – including the automotive, financial, and energy sectors – this is no small story.
But as it turns out, some in the political world took note, too.
The U.S. Department of Energy noted on Twitter, for example, that the new Tesla model is cool, “but did you know that Energy Dept. loans helped jumpstart the Model S?”
Actually, yes. For all the arguments from the right that the federal government shouldn’t intervene in the private marketplace, Tesla’s success was driven in part by the Obama administration, which loaned the auto company $465 million through the Energy Department. It worked out quite well – Tesla thrived, the company repaid the loans ahead of schedule, and American taxpayers saw a nice return on their investment.
The estimable Ron Klain this morning also flagged this great Slate piece about the time Mitt Romney blasted President Obama’s Recovery Act because of its Tesla investments. From October 2012:
In one of the sharper lines of Wednesday night’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney jabbed President Obama over his green-jobs investments, saying, “You don’t just pick the winners and losers. You pick the losers.”Burn! But what losers was Romney referring to, specifically?
Specifically, Romney was referring to, among others, Tesla Motors. (After the debate, Slate added, Romney campaign staffers “stood by the candidate’s diss of the startup, which employs some 3,500 workers.” Four years later, this looks pretty foolish.)
Ordinarily, when we think about the Obama administration’s successes with the auto industry, the 2009 rescue package that revitalized GM comes to mind. But given the record, it’s hard to blame the administration for taking another victory lap over Tesla’s accomplishments, too.